Andropause, or “male menopause,” is a medical condition affecting men mostly between ages 40 and 65. It is caused by low levels of the hormone testosterone. The drop in testosterone happens gradually over many years, and it can cause emotional and physical effects including a lowered sex drive, lower energy levels and changes in attitude. Andropause is a treatable condition, but left untreated it can lead to a higher risk of heart disease.
Symptoms of andropause include a decrease in bone density, body hair, strength, and muscle mass; and an increase in fat around internal organs. The condition also causes erectile problems, specifically a lower quality of erections and a lower number of nocturnal erections. Andropause causes some men to become depressed, angry or tired and to experience lower intellectual functioning. Because symptoms come on gradually, they can be mistaken for natural aging.
Doctors use a blood test of testosterone levels to diagnose andropause. The amount of testosterone needed for muscles, bones, brain, prostate and other parts of the body to function properly varies from man to man. Because there is no standard level to measure against, it can be difficult to diagnose andropause. You need to work with your physician to determine if your testosterone level is low enough to cause andropause.
Andropause is often treated with oral or topical testosterone replacement therapy to combat low testosterone levels. Treatment is designed to improve bone density, mental ability and muscle strength, as well as to increase the patient’s sense of well-being and libido, and restore sexual functioning.
Andropause has been treated with alternative methods including natural supplements, dietary and lifestyle changes, and treatment of individual symptoms. These treatments include consuming more calcium and vitamin D to help those who have lost bone density, taking supplements such as creatine to combat loss in muscle mass, and taking St. John’s wort to improve mood and stop mental decline. A supplement called tribulus terrestris is often used by men who want to increase their testosterone levels. Tribulus terrestris, which comes from a vine, contains protodioscins, which encourage the body to release testosterone.
Testosterone replacement therapy can result in more energy and muscle strength, an increase in lean body mass while fat mass decreases, and getting better sleep. Improved mood and sexual performance as other benefits.
Side effects of testosterone replacement therapy include fluid retention, acne, oily skin, and a decrease in testicle size. Those taking the treatment may also experience breast enlargement, a higher red cell count, stimulation of prostate tissue, decrease in frequency of urination and a decrease in sperm count.